Holst / The Planets – Blockbuster Sound

More of the music of Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

Reviews and Commentaries for The Planets

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This 2-pack boasts White Hot Stamper sound on side two for the Mehta Planets. Yes, it IS possible. Side two shows you what this record is actually capable of — big WHOMP, no SMEAR, super SPACIOUS, DYNAMIC, with an EXTENDED top. It beat every London pressing we threw at it, coming out on top for our recent shootout. Folks, we 100% guarantee that whatever pressing you have of this performance, this copy will trounce it.

But side one of this London original British pressing was awful. We wrote it off as NFG after about a minute; that’s all we could take of the bright, hard-sounding brass of War.

Can you imagine sound this bad from a TAS List Super Disc record? We can, we played it. (more…)

Santana – Santana (III)

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  • Santana III finally returns to the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish
  • This copy has tons of energy, nice weight to the bottom, and plenty of extension up top
  • 4 1/2 stars: “. . . an album that has aged extremely well due to its spare production (by Carlos and the band) and its live sound. This is essential Santana, a record that deserves to be reconsidered in light of its lasting abundance and vision.”

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

If you want to bring the funky sound of Latin percussion to life in your living room, this is the ticket. This is one of the most TUBEY MAGICAL Santana recording we have ever heard, and at its best it is competitive with Abraxas for the title of Greatest Santana Recording.

Both sides here absolutely DESTROY the typical pressing, with the kind of huge, wide soundfield and stunning clarity and detail that really bring this music to life!

This pressing is open and spacious, which gives all of the drums and guitars their own space. Santana records live and die by the sonic quality of the drums and percussion, and on this copy they are KILLER.

Check out the commentary below under “The Best Sounding Santana Album?” to read more about just how great this record sounds. (more…)

Ravel / Piano Concertos / Haas – A Real Sleeper on Philips

More of the music of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound…

and One We Will Probably Never Shootout Again

Some records never justified the time and money required to find Hot Stamper pressings of them in order to make it worth our while to do them again. This is one such album, and the link above will take you to many more

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This Philips recording from 1970 on exceptionally quiet Dutch vinyl has SUPERB Super Hot Stamper sound on side one for one of Ravel’s best known piano works, the Piano Concerto in G. Most Philips records are much too thick, dull and opaque to be taken seriously, by us anyway. (In this respect they have many sonic attributes in common with Londons from the ’70s and ’80s.)

Dropping the needle on this pressing, however, was a pleasant surprise. It’s big and spacious on side one, with zero smear on a piano that is both full and clear.

This is a difficult combination to achieve in our experience, and the kind of sound we do not hesitate to praise highly here at Better Records.

To us it sounds right, and when the sound is as right as it is here, the wonderful piano music of Ravel can really work its magic. (more…)

The Pretenders’ Debut Album

More from The Pretenders

More Women Who Rock

Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

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  • Insanely good sound throughout — Triple Plus (A+++) on the second side, Double Plus (A++) on the first – we rarely have copies that rock the way this one does
  • This is one of engineer Bill Price’s better efforts behind the boards, and Chris Thomas’s production is State of the Art
  • Relatively quiet vinyl throughout this early UK pressing – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • Five Stars: “Few rock & roll records rock as hard or with as much originality as the Pretenders’ eponymous debut album. A sleek, stylish fusion of Stonesy rock & roll, new wave pop, and pure punk aggression, Pretenders is teeming with sharp hooks and a viciously cool attitude.”

What really separated this copy from the pack was the lack of edge on the vocals. It’s not duller — it’s bigger and clearer yet less distorted and cut cleaner than the other sides we played.

Add big bass and dynamics and you have yourself some truly Hot Stamper sound!

Forget the dubby domestic vinyl, these Brit pressings are the only way to go. (more…)

Grover Washington, Jr. – Mister Magic

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More 5 Star Albums

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  • Mister Magic makes its Hot Stamper debut on the new site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • We guarantee the sound is dramatically bigger, richer, fuller, and livelier than any pressing you have ever heard
  • We’re big fans of Rudy Van Gelder’s work in the early- to mid-70s, and it’s records like this (and All the King’s Horses) that make our case
  • 5 stars: “This is one of Grover Washington, Jr.’s best-loved recordings and considered a classic of R&Bish jazz. . . Highly recommended.”

Most pressings are murky, overly smooth, and lack energy. Often they also suffer from serious congestion and veiling. Our job is to find you the copy that has none of those problems, and that is precisely what we have done with this Shootout Winner. You get tons of space and energy, along with balanced tonality and great presence.

Washington is backed by excellent players including Bob James, Phil Upchurch, Harvey Mason, Ralph MacDonald, Eric Gale and many more.

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The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – Keep On Moving

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More Electric Blues

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful album, a vintage Elektra stereo pressing is the only way to go
  • “People who liked Butter long ago usually don’t like what he’s become. I’ve only dug him over the past two years and I think he just gets better and better. This record, vocally oriented and produced by Jerry Ragavoy, is his best yet, hard-driving and very tight. ” – Robert Christgau (A)

I would have never guessed this band’s records could sound so good! We’ve been trying to find good sound for the Butterfield Blues Band with no luck for years, but we lucked into a seriously hot Red Label Elektra pressing here. There’s serious weight down low, nice extension up top, tons of tubey magic and surprising transparency to be found. Good luck finding better sound for this kind of bluesy rock and roll! (more…)

Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 – Adjusting the VTA to Achieve Correct String Tonality

More of the music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

More VTA Advice

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When your VTA, azimuth, tracking weight and anti-skate are correct, this is the record that will make it clear to you that your efforts have paid off.

What to listen for you ask? With the proper adjustment the harmonics of the strings will sound extended and correct. And you can’t really know how right it can sound until you go through hours of experimentation with all the forces that affect the way the needle rides the groove.

Without precise VTA adjustment there is almost no way this record will do everything it’s capable of doing. There will be hardness, smear, sourness, thinness — something will be off somewhere. With total control over your arm and cartridge setup, these problems will all but vanish. (Depending on the quality of the equipment of course.)

We harp on all aspects of record reproduction for a reason. When you have done the work, pressings such as this one are simply GLORIOUS.

Whatever Happened to Decca’s Famously Rich, Rosiny Strings?

It’s practically impossible to hear that kind of string sound on any recording made in the last thirty years (and this of course includes everything pressed on Heavy Vinyl). It may be a lost art but as long as we have these wonderful vintage pressings to play, it’s an art that is not lost on us.

It’s also as wide, deep and three-dimensional as any, which is, of course, all to the good, but what makes the sound of these recordings so special is the timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.

I don’t think the Decca engineers could have cut this record much better — it has all the orchestral magic one could ask for, as well as the resolving power, clarity and presence that are missing from so many Golden Age records.

This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them on ebay. They cannot begin to sound the way this record sounds. (Before you put them up for sale, please play them against this pressing so that you can be confident in your decision to rid yourself of their insufferable mediocrity.)


Elvis Costello / Trust – A Desert Island Disc on the Right Import Pressing

More Personal Favorites

Hot Stamper Pressings of Elvis’s Albums Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Elvis Costello

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TRUST is one of my favorite Elvis Costello albums, along with the first album, My Aim Is True, which is every bit as good. Armed Forces is up there too. I wouldn’t want to be without all three on my desert island.

I remember loving the sound of my old Brit copy from twenty years back, even to the point of agreeing with Michael Fremer when he put it on his top 40 rock album list. Now I know better: that most of them leave something to be desired, especially down low.

Did I have good one? Does he? Who can say? Everything is different, and revisiting old sonic favorites can sometimes be a bit of a shock. (Of course this is especially true for all the old MoFis I used to like. Now most of them make me wonder just how clueless I used to be. The short answer: very clueless.)

Elvis: Still The King

By the way, we played a domestic copy of this album, just for fun you might say, and sure enough, it was a real mess. Boosted highs, poor bass definition and copious amounts of grit and grain — ’70s Columbia at their best, what else is new? The first album and Spike (decent, far from the best but enjoyable) are the only Elvis records I know of that sound good on domestic vinyl. Forget the rest.

If you love Elvis Costello as much as we do around here, we suggest you do yourself a favor and trash your domestic LPs — you need a British copy to even get in the ballpark, and that’s far from a guarantee of good sound. Elvis is “Still the King,” but you would never know it without the right pressing.

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Blood Sweat and Tears / Self-Titled – Direct Disc Labs Half-Speed Reviewed

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Reviews and Commentaries for Blood, Sweat and Tears

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Sonic Grade: C [not sure it would rate that highly today, my guess it would not]

Back in the ’80s I thought this DD Labs version smoked domestic copies, because the only domestic copy I had ever bought was a bad sounding one. This was many years before I came to understand that no two domestic copies were the same and that there were dozens of pressing variations.

I believe it was not until about 1990 that I heard my first Hot Stamper of BS&T. Oddly enough, those stamper numbers managed to best all comers for about the next 15 years. Now we know that although they can be awesome, there is actually another stamper that is potentially even better. It’s so good in fact that it has been awarded our Four Plus grade. 

The reason this pressing doesn’t get a lower grade is that, regardless of how compressed and veiled the sound is, the average Columbia pressing is surely no better.

When it comes to finding your own great sounding pressing, sure, you can do it, but it’s a lot of hard work. I’m guessing most of you already have a job and don’t need another one. I do this for a living as well as for a hobby, so I’m willing to put in the time and effort to slog through all the trash in order to find the treasure.

Also, we have a big advantage over our customers. I’ve been doing this for a very long time. I have a big head start on all of you. I know many stampers that are good and many that are bad. I found out the hard way. On BS&T I know exactly which copies to buy and which copies to avoid. I have literally heard more than 100 copies of this record.

This is true for scores if not hundreds of other albums. Why did I bother to listen to so many different pressings? The overriding reason is because I wanted to find a better sounding version for myself.

It’s not worth the effort if it’s not music you love.

This is also the reason you will never find Hot Stamper pressings of some artists’ records on the site. I don’t like their music and I will just never make the effort to listen to enough pressings in order to find a hot one.

Most of this was written way back in 2005.


FURTHER READING

Half-Speed Mastered Disasters

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The Hollies – For Certain Because…

More by The Hollies

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This is a rare, original Hollies Parlophone Black & Yellow label LP in stereo.

The album has very good sound on surprisingly quiet vinyl.

“An admirable effort that may stand as the group’s most accomplished album of the ’60s.” — AMG

“The Hollies were very much a pop group and didn’t let their somewhat more sober and introspective compositions stand in the way of their glittering harmonies and jangling guitars. Occasional brass, banjo, bells, and vibrating piano embellish their basic rock instrumentation on this pleasant, if hardly earthshaking, work. The circus-like “Stop! Stop! Stop!,” with its manic banjo, was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic; the good-natured “Pay You Back with Interest” was a Top 30 hit in America; and the jazzy “Tell Me to My Face” was one of their best ’60s album tracks.” — AMG